Use Your Fork

It never occurred to me that at the age of 8 my daughter would be judged on her ability to use a fork and knife while eating lunch at school. When I started dating Markus was when I was slapped across the face with the fact that my southern style table manners, which I learned at Lainey’s age, were in fact, only appropriate in the South! I found a pretty good explanation of southern table manners, here.

Cutting your food with your fork or cutting food and putting your knife down to eat with the fork only is considered juvenile and inefficient. The appropriate eating position is fork in non-dominant hand and knife in the other, for the entire meal. Only cut off what you pick up with your fork for that bite, otherwise it is also wrong. I found this webpage that explains it better than I ever could. Use-a-Fork-and-Knife

It seems my naivety has caused issues for her being picked on in her new international environment. For the past few years when visiting Lainey at school for lunch in Texas it always made me laugh that they were only given plastic spoons for any and all food consumption needs, which proved to be tricky on the one occasion that I loved to eat with her, Thanksgiving turkey and dressing.

Now that not using hands and knowing how to use a knife are an everyday necessity, it’s causing me to re-evaluate the order of importance of my parenting teaching. If I am being completely honest, I have always been happy to get my kids to eat, and didn’t care if it was with their hands, feet, fork, spoon, my fork, off my plate or anything else. Teaching them to eat with a fork and knife at this point had just never even crossed my mind! So now I am off to find tools and tricks to add to my boards on Pinterest to help me tackle this new parenting requirement.

German Driving vs Texas Driving

I’m going to miss “Right on Red” and Feeder Roads! On my first trip to Germany, we were several hours into a road trip to theNetherlands when I asked Markus when we would get to “The Autobahn”, he looked at me confused and said, we have been on it the whole time. Growing up I always assumed the German Autobahn where you could drive as fast as you want was a special section of highway, not the entire country! Now, having driven with my husband for years in Germany, I know there are tons of things I do prefer about driving here and a few that I DO NOT! In the past, I would have had to pay a small fortune to learn to drive here in Germany, take a test and obtain my license, but now I should be able to take my existing license to their transportation office and get a license to drive here while only paying a small fee. There is a reciprocation agreement with Texas now so it should be easy, but just in case I have been paying attention for years to all the differences.

One thing I know is a difference in mindset is the size of the vehicle! My dad would never have put us in a small two door car, we either needed to be in a full size vehicle or SUV in order to be safe on Texas roads with so many oversized cars and trucks. In Germany the opposite is true, smaller is definitely better. It’s easier to park, they have better mileage, and for most parents, they don’t want to give too much horsepower to a younger driver with little experience.

In the US, especially in Texas, It is common to see not just family minivans that seat 8, but even these bigger transport wagons that will fit upward of 10-12 or even 15! When perusing what is available in Germany, it is uncommon to find a “normal” sized vehicle that would seat our five person family comfortably. Most women in Germany have smaller vehicles for getting around the villages but the men usually drive the family vehicle as a company car. While this is common practice in Germany, my husband and I don’t agree and don’t participate. For us it has always been easier for him to drive the smaller car for commuting and the family vehicle is used for the family daily. Our efforts to find a family car have been a struggle as well. We want something fuel efficient but there are many brands that don’t offer their bigger vehicle electric or hybrid options here. I promise to write a whole blog post about this process because I also find it very interesting!

Another thing I love about Texas is that if you get stuck in traffic, there is a good chance you can bypass it by getting off (you could even see many vehicles driving through the grass beside the highway to get to the feeder faster) and going around on the frontage road. Another option I love is that you can navigate through back roads to make your way just about anywhere you want to go! There is always more than one way to get there and chances are your GPS will show at least three options to choose from and you can pick your favorite based on distance, speed or cost! In Germany, if you get stuck in traffic (also known as a Stau) you could be there for hours because there are not feeder roads or alternate directions offered by your GPS. In some circumstances you can pick your route prior to leaving to avoid traffic, but once you are in a route, you are stuck with what happens along the way.

German motorway (Autobahn)

The U-Turn! Apparently in Texas we make a lot of mistakes while driving, because the existence of the u-turn is not a German thing. If you miss your exit (also know as Ausfahrt) you could be to the next town before you have the option to get off the autobahn, navigate to the other side and back track. I find this to be a truly clever part of the American road system, but you will also not find as many businesses on the side of the autobahn like you do in the US.

Toll roads are a common accepted method to get from Point A to Point B in the US. We just know that if we want to get there faster or avoid traffic, just pay the toll!

Parking is so simple – you only have to pay for it when you are going downtown or to a concert or sporting venue, and even most of that can also be avoided! Parking spaces are spacious and plentiful in the land where everything is bigger! How else would a four door dualie truck be able to park in a normal parking lot? With this in mind, I do not look forward to parking in Germany! This is something that always makes me feel crazy as the spots are small and tight and parallel parking is very common! You pay for parking at the mall or even just to drop someone off on the sidewalk at the airport AND you always have to remember to bring your ticket with you!

Valet parking, even for places like the mall, Americans will pay for just about anything to avoid the long treacherous walk from the back of the parking lot! That’s not something you will find in Germany! With parking spaces being very limited and small, Germans will squeeze their cars into just about any free spot. In fact, most Germans will walk a mile to avoid the hassle of trying to find a parking spot at all!

Pay at the pump does not exist for the most part in Germany. Do they have any idea how hard this is going to make my life?!? How can I be expected to get three kids out of their car seats to go in and pay for gas? I have a feeling I will have an entirely separate post dedicated to my hate of this and other things like this. As for now, my husband will be responsible for filling up the gas tank when he is with us or has the car.

Also in line with not having to physically leave the vicinity of the car, is that in Texas, we have drive through service for just about anything you can think of! I could leave my home in my pajamas to drop my daughter off for school, then I could go to Starbucks, the bank, the pharmacy, pick up or drop off at the dry cleaners and get something for the younger kids at the donut shop all via a drive thru. Then I could go to the local grocery store, Walmart or Target and pick up via curbside service. Later in the evening I could place an order for food at any other many restaurants in the area, drive to the “princess parking”/now curbside to go spots and have food placed in my trunk. I could do an entire day of errands and never leave the car! And an added Corona-Era option and necessity is contactless service, most of the time I don’t even have to speak to anyone, I just check in on my phone. Now I understand things have changed a little in Germany with Corona, but for the most part you still have to park, get out and walk inside to accomplish almost everything. For almost everything you will also need a negative Covid test within a few days to enter.

One thing I love about drivers in Germany is that they adhere to the rule that passing should only be done to the left and the far left lane is used when passing multiple cars at a time and driving at a higher rate of speed. Unless you are actively passing you should get in the far right lane. The further left you go the faster you should be traveling and bigger trucks are generally not allowed in the far left. It is also common to see the entire right lane full with trucks driving one after another because they aren’t allowed to pass when there are hills either.

The general rule in a four way stop in Texas is that the person to the right has the right of way if both drivers arrive at the same time. This is also true in Germany, but they add that the person to the right also has the right of way in a 30 km per hour speed zone. So if you are traveling down a smaller street with this speed limit and someone pulls up to the street in front of you, from the right on another street, they have the right of way to pull out and you should slow down and allow them to pull out. It is also the rule that on a narrow road where many cars are parked along the side, it is the right of way of the side without cars parked and the car traveling along the side with the parked cars should find space to pull over to allow the other car to pass. The right of way always goes to the car without the parked cars on their side of the road. In the case both have cars parked, it’s considered a gentleman’s agreement and the first one who has the option to pull to the side and allow the other to pass should do so. I am actually not sure of the rules for this in the US, it has always kind of been a first come first served situation. Plus streets are very seldom only large enough for one car to pass at a time.

These are just some of the things I have found and noticed and I haven’t even started driving here yet! As for me now, its going to be hard to stop at a light and wait for the right turn arrow to allow me to make my right turn. I have now been enjoying the liberty of that move for more than 25 years. Next time you do make your right on red, say a little prayer for me and my patience!

Who is “Klose to Home”?

After 10 year in the US, my husband Markus is moving home to Germany, and he’s taking four people home with him! When he moved here in December of 2010, I don’t think he could have anticipated returning ten years later with a family of five! Me, I am Lauran and I am from Texas, born and raised and never lived more than two hours from where I was born. Our three kids together, Lainey (8) our daughter, Logan (5) and Lukas (1) our sons. This is going to be interesting.

This blog is being created to share our stories and travels. This blog will highlight the challenges and the triumphs of making an international move of this magnitude. This blog will be my outlet for communicating all about all the things I love and all the things I don’t understand.

I invite you to join us on this ride. Follow along with me and let me know what you are thinking! We will need all the encouragement we can get!

The Driver’s License

I had a good cry today. The day had finally come for me to pick up my German drivers license. We applied about three weeks ago and lucky for me, the reciprocity agreement with Texas allowed me to bypass the test which seems to be pretty hard. All I had to do was apply and then now to go pick it up, but there was one catch. In Germany (and apparently internationally) you aren’t allowed to carry more than one drivers license, so the only way I was able to take the German one home with me was if I surrendered my Texas license.

When my husband got his license in Texas they didn’t require him to surrender his German license. At this office in Germany they said that this was a mistake. Honestly I believe that Texas DMV just doesn’t care about it. The license doesn’t mean anything to them, its the record that goes along with it.

At first, in the office, I got frustrated. The German license doesn’t have address or donor information on it so I argued that this was my identification card in the State of Texas. They told me I still had a passport.

The next approach I took was to tell them they could cut the corner of it to prove that it was no longer valid, as I have seen in Texas many times. This was also not acceptable to them.

They then told me they would be sending my license back to Texas and I could pick it up there, which infuriated me. I asked them to tell me WHERE they would be sending it and no one could tell me. The even referenced my home address on the license and I just got more worked up. My husband finally said they aren’t the ones sending it. Someone from a central handling office would be sending it using the guidelines set by the State of Texas. I laughed and said “Texas doesn’t care! They will probably mail it to that address as if it was lost!”

After many different arguments, I asked my husband what he wanted me to do and he said to take the new German one and leave the Texas one. So with tears streaming down my face I told him to get it for me and walked out of the room.

A sample of How the new Führerschein looks

I couldn’t actually understand why I was so upset at the moment. I felt like a woman without a country. Yes I know that Texas isn’t a country, but in my heart it is. I felt heaving coming in my chest and just wanted to be alone when I started crying hard.

My Texas license is only valid until 2025 when I would have to renew it. The German license is good for life apparently, so it does have that going for it. There was something though, that I just couldn’t reconcile with.

I have made it clear that I was born and raised in Texas and it feels like part of who I am at my core. For some reason not having my Texas drivers license felt like a cut to the core of who I am. I have had it in my wallet since I was 16.

The Donor emblem on the front of the license

When I looked at the license though, it dawned on my that it just felt like giving up a piece of myself. My dad taught me to drive. He taught me to use my knees to steer. He made me believe in the importance of being an organ donor, so I take pride of that heart on the front of my card. My middle name, that I hated as a young girl, was the one given to me by my dad in honor of his grandmother and I am proud of it in a way I never was as a kid.

I have since calmed down, looked at the entire thing with a little distant perspective and found that it’s really the sentimental aspect that is plaguing me the most. I feel like I can’t call myself a “card carrying Native Texan” anymore, not that I really ever phrased it that way… but I will be when I return to Texas again. Until then I almost feel guilty wearing all my Texas shirts… but I can’t walk around naked and since that’s all I really own, I guess I will make it work!

The Waschsalon

There are a number of things that are different for us here, but I want to pick some topics to elaborate on. Let me talk about washing clothes in Germany for a minute! I am not someone who wants someone else to wash my clothes so it’s really hard for me to let that go while living in my In-laws home, no matter how much my husband tries to convince me it’s fine.

Dryers are triple the size of the washing machines

First, the water is extremely hard and the high levels of chalk, or calcium and magnesium, which can make your clothes wear out much faster. Our new home will have a water softener system in the future to help with this but I’ve never seen anything like it. My stainless steel classes usually have a dusty white film in them when they dry and it’s just something I have never experienced. I will do another post about the effects of this hard water that you would never consider in your everyday life. I was able to learn more about this here!

Second, the size of the washing machines is around half the size of what we are used to. Our machine in Texas was approximately 15 kg and it was one of the biggest drums I could find. Here I am now sitting at one of the few Waschsalons (aka laundromat or washeteria) I could find in the general vicinity and I have 6 machines going because they are only 5 kg apiece! There is a “super” machine at 16 kg (€9) but it’s always in use.

Today was a light day since I just came a week and a half ago… only six of these needed!

A third thing to note is the cost, it’s €3,50 for a wash load and €0,80 for 10 min of drying time. Most of the time I usually walk out of here spending between €28 and €35.

Location, a fourth thing to note is that the location of these Waschsalons is almost never convenient. Located in the middle of downtown and with limited parking, it’s usually a bit of a tricky walk to get here and back to the car with all the clothes and the kids! Most of the time my husband is able to help out with this too. One of our cheap last minute suitcases that we got to carry our last minute purchases from Texas serves as my Waschsalon suitcase and I keep it with all my supplies and use it to go back and forth! It’s always nice to walk down a cobblestone street with a heavy wheeled suitcase making a racket! It’s even better when you are pushing a stroller with one hand and pulling the suitcase with the other while trying to get your two more mobile children to help or keep up! There is usually a park conveniently located in the walk path to distract from our mission and result in multiple promises to return that will probably be broken before the day is over.

Parking is fun!

Until our house is finished I will happily come sit at the Waschsalon for around an hour and a half to get all our laundry done! It’s actually usually nice to have all of it washed, dried and partially folded in that amount of time. Once we move, I anticipate many many many trips to the basement in my future. While I hope this does help my ass and will serve as a form of cardio, I am not looking forward to it!

With our final handover date in set and the count down on for moving into the house our search for some of the appliance has become more serious! While shopping for our future Washing Machine and Dryer I have run across so many different questions I have to find the answers to. Average machines are around 7 kg and they try to keep them as small as possible because not everyone has a lot of space. There are even dual machines that are both washer and dryer that you can get and you will find those in the kitchen in a lot of apartments! This won’t work for a family of five so my hunt is on! Hoping to keep everyone posted on our findings!

Settling a bit…

Last week while trying to plan our schedule, I glanced at the calendar and realized that it has been over three months now that we are living in Germany with our in-laws. To say this time has been easy is an absolute lie. I don’t even feel like the time has flown by. It has been a hard few months. We knew when we made this plan last year that these would be the hardest months of our life, and our marriage.

This is the longest I have ever been away from Texas. This is the longest I have ever been a guest in someone else’s home. This is the longest I have ever nursed one of my children. Those three things may not sound related but if you have ever moved with small children you get it. The roller coaster of emotions has been barreling along on the edge of insanity.

We realized that we are over the half way mark. We are approaching the time when our home is completed and finalizing many things in the meantime. We are buying new furniture and setting up our kitchen and by the end of the year our home should be complete and our move into it finished as well. So what I want to do for the rest of this post is talk about the things I have learned and some things to note so far.

American Food Stores are few and far between here and the costs are over the top but if you are homesick enough you will justify a €9,00 bottle of Mrs. Butterworths and a €7,00 pint of Jiffy Peanut Butter.

You will justify the exorbitant price for items you can get for cheap in HEB by telling yourself the shipping and having to beg someone to get them shipped to you are factored into the cost making it cheaper to pay for that.

You will promise yourself you will not buy it again but are already planning your next trip to see what is in their upcoming shipment.

Germany is a hard language, not an easy one to learn at all, but nevertheless everyone does expect you to learn it.

Finding German classes is hard and expensive and you will swear that no one actually wants you to learn the language despite their insistence you have to, but once you find a place such as this, you will feel right at home with the wonderful people!

Getting a drivers license in Germany is hard and expensive at 18, but if you have a valid license from a reciprocating state all you have to do is pay for the license and it will get issued to you. This process is wildly complicated if you do not have a license from a state with reciprocity.

Driving in Germany can be very hard and confusing, but those open highway speed limits make it all worth it.

There are something like over 100 different road signs, I don’t know if I will ever learn them all.

A lot of customs for driving, recycling and other things require Germans to honor the systems, and they do for the most part.

A good VPN app is worth its weight in gold when you want to watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, Apple TV, and Disney+ without being restricted to the country you are currently in.

At some point I am sadly and under protest going to have to cancel all my streaming subscriptions.

There are some truly disgusting foods that I cannot for the life of me understand, and if they didn’t make me want to puke smelling them it probably would have been much funnier to learn about this strange one. See Handkäse mit Musik .

My kids are surviving on Fleischwurst, brötchen, cucumbers, salami, pasta, and occasional Schnitzel.

The ice machine which requires manually adding water, we got on sale the first week we were here is single handedly keeping me sane and in shape.

I go through approximately two liters of water a day in ice alone.

American brown sugar is hard to find here, but I was able to procure molasses from Amazon and make my own.

Learning to read military time or a 24 hour clock is actually not hard at all!

While going to the washeteria seems like such an inconvenience, it sure is nice to be able to wash and dry 8 loads of laundry all within two hours.

The time difference sucks for keeping in touch with friends.

Tax being included in the price is actually very nice.

While our container was delivered, we are still waiting for the delivery of our 40 overflow boxes, which should be delivered next week.

German furniture stores are an awesome outing on a Saturday, you can eat well and for cheap, and drink a beer, shop for everything from housewares to lawn furniture to kitchen supplies, toys and baby gear, and some of them even have giant playgrounds to run off some of the kids energy.

German furniture can take anywhere from 9 weeks to three months to be delivered and even then when it arrives you may have to assemble it yourself.

Nearly every park here has a zip line for the kids.

I am far too old and out of shape to show off/try to ride on the zip line.

I have cooked a total of four meals here, and from what I can tell, I am the best cook when I haven’t had my cooking in months… OR I am just incredibly homesick and everything I taste is a bit skewed by that.

I have King Ranch Chicken on my list to make this week with some €20 for three packs of 20 home made corn tortillas and I can’t wait! Here is the recipe I am planning to use!

I will try to keep writing more like I was in the beginning, its hard not to let my emotions get in the way. I enjoy these posts when I take the time to do them though.

Harder than we anticipated

We knew that this would be hard. We knew that we were moving to another country where things are different and that for a while it would be a transition.

Food is different, you don’t realize how different until you are trying to find a new normal for your morning routine and nothing feels right.

Most important meal of the day has shifted. For me it was always breakfast, but here it seems lunch is usually the focus. I get the reasoning but that doesn’t change the way my body is built or what helps me fuel my day!

The weather is all over the place! Now we are coming from Texas where the seasons are summer, extended summer, summer in hell’s sauna, a sprinkle of fall and a couple days where hell freezes over. We anticipated that we would have all the seasons here but last week was hot as heck and this week the highs are at 70.

Allergies seem to be different as well. All of us seem to have a runny nose or little cough. We assume it’s because our bodies are adjusting to our new surroundings. You don’t consider all the things that will have to adjust when you make a move. I assumed that getting away from that “pine curtain” called The Woodlands would magically cure all allergies, but new ones come along! There are flowers and plants and fields with things I’ve never spent much time around. Growing up around rice fields, it was a bit eye opening when we went for a a walk and had a wheat field on one side and a flowering potato field on the other. Our bodies will adjust but it will take sniffling, coughing, itchy time.

I long for my regularly scheduled programming. I have been telling myself “It’s summer, all they are playing are reruns” but I know that I will be missing summer favs like Big Brother and miss having my shows to watch! At least we have the Euro Cup going on and that’s what’s playing most of the time. It’s been almost two months though and I have finished rewatching (playing in the background kind of watching) all ten seasons of Friends and 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory! Up next is How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family!

School pick up and drop off are so very different. Let’s start with the drive, it just went from a two mile drive to the school, pull through the driveway and let the daughter out, and then a thirty minute Starbucks and Chick fil A run to now being a 51 kilometer drive one way, and having to get out of the car and walk her to the door. Almost four hours of our day is spent on school drop off and pick up. Now this isn’t forever, just until we move when we will be 10km from the school.

We got a new car. One in which I personally feel is a mid-sized SUV compared to what I am used to. The overwhelming response though has been sort of negative, as friends a family continue to tell us it’s too big and we aren’t in Texas anymore. Personally, I don’t see any issues with it and don’t anticipate having issues parking or getting places but I guess we will see. To me, it’s the same size as the mini van I left behind but with way fewer pockets and places to stash things!

I love German furniture stores!! Let start with size! They are huge! We recently visited both XXXLutz and Segmüller and in each you have combined a Star Furniture, an IKEA and Gallery furniture all in one building! The only thing missing is Mattress Mac! You also have an At Home and the home section of Macy’s with bedding and kitchen supplies added to make the one store all in one! We have been to two so far and it’s been fun to walk around! I can’t wait to start filling our home!

German radio is interesting. Somehow they broadcast traffic and new reports over your radio regardless of what you are listening to and as soon as I can understand them, it will probably be really helpful!

Somehow I always thought that I wasn’t meeting people or having friendly conversations during the day because of the language but it’s possible it has more to do with the less than outgoing nature of typical German people. The need to say hi and smile or wave to everyone is strictly a Texas thing, or maybe a southern thing but it doesn’t happen here. Sometimes it can make you feel like something is wrong with you, but as I have always said “People don’t think about me as much as I think they do!” And here it absolutely is true!

A final thing we did was to take our CDC Vaccination cards to a local Apotheke and get the digital certification of vaccination for the new Corona-Warn App. We were worried it would be hard since we had American vaccination records but the pharmacist was able to get us the QR code to scan into our app so that we can now show proof of vaccination here in Germany without worry that the CDC card won’t be accepted. Some simple difference, BioNTech is the same as Pfizer and dates are written Month first were debated for a moment, but in the end we got what we needed. A Negative test is still required in most places in order to be able to sit down to eat or even enter, but things are slowly getting better.

All in all we are still happy with our decision to move, we knew this time would be hard and adjusting will take time but having many visits with family and a few friends has been awesome! Having the kids get to know Oma and Opa so much better is worth all the hassle! We will keep the updates coming, with summer holiday coming we should have more to talk about!

Tuesday was the day!

Our container arrived Tuesdsay and they were busy unloading it into the warehouse where all our household belongings will stay until we move into our new home!

Still sealed up since Texas!

The coordination effort by my husband to get the container here and unloaded without incurring many more charges has been a special feat! It doesn’t seem to matter what your occupation is, when it comes to ocean freight and your household belongings, everyone is subject to the same rules and regulations! Our container was even pulled for detailed inspection which I think included an x-ray we also had to pay for.

The morning started off fun as no one told us we would need a bolt cutter to remove the seal from the container! After one of the movers ran to a nearby car repair shop for a hand saw we were in business!

The poor truck driver tried his best!

At first glance we are pretty sure this was our container!!!

It took three movers, my husband and his dad a little over three hours to unload the container. There is a warehouse and one and a half garage bays full with our boxes and furniture. Everything will be there if we need it in the coming months while we wait for the house to be completed.

Buying a Car in Germany

We have been watching the online car market place for months, trying to figure out what the right car will be for us. There are so many vehicles that are common to the US that simply don’t exist here in Germany, unless they were imported by the owner. Mini Vans, larger SUV’s, trucks, are all harder to find. There are also many cars for the German market that you would never find on the US market. You will find things like the A & B class Mercedes, smaller cars that have a much lower horsepower and higher fuel efficiency. There are also a ton of brands that I have never heard of.

One big difference in the German market is that there are many more former company cars on the road, as the majority of professionals have a company car that will be traded in after three years. In many cases, you can find a very good deal on a relatively new car with minimal miles and in great condition. Many of these cars were purchased with many extras by employees who waited up to six months for the car to be delivered. This is also part of the reason buying used is popular because it would be hard to find your chose car and extras on the lot as they don’t keep a lot of inventory, which results in long wait times for cars to be delivered new.

Used car salesmen in Germany do not care if you want to buy a car or not, it seems they do not work on commission. This makes the process much less frustrating on one hand and much more on the other. The first time we went to look they salesman didn’t even leave his office. We kept having to go back to him to get keys for the vehicle we wanted to look at. We also weren’t able to do any test drives in that moment because an appointment was needed for that.

We finally selected a used Volvo that we want to purchase, it’s a hybrid but we won’t get any tax incentive or rebate for buying it used. When you get the paperwork for the car, the reason that it is for sale is listed. In this case the car was delivered with the wrong stereo, it was driven for sixteen thousand kilometers while the owner waited for the car with the right stereo system. This one is basically brand new, so we are pretty excited! The Harmon Kardon stereo is exactly what we would have wanted to its basically winning!

Of course I’m wearing a Texas shirt!!!!

Once we have agreed on the price and signed paperwork, the job is now ours to register the vehicle and apply for the license plates, which we have to take with us to pick up the car. This is the most frustrating part of the process for me. Even for the test drive, special dealer plates were put on the car so that we could leave the parking lot. Temporary plates are not allowed.

A fun part is that we get to pick our desired license plate. The first two characters are the abbreviation for the town or village where the car is registered. This will change in six months and we will be required to go through this process again. The second two characters are also letters and most people will pick their initials. The last three characters are numbers and many choose three that represent their birthday, favorite numbers, anniversary, etc. I love this but I also find this to be almost too personalized in that you could easily identify a lot of information about a person simply by looking at their license plate!

Our chosen plate has a new letter at the end, an E! The E is new for Electric cars, we haven’t seen a lot of plates with it yet. Sadly when we move into our new house, we will have to get another set of plates for our new city. One of my favorite things to do in the highway is to try to identify what letters stand for what city.

Things I didn’t see coming…

I can no longer sit in the car with it running, this is something that I always though was merely frowned upon, but this week we sat in the car for me to nurse the baby before going in to an appointment and were approached by a man who did not appreciate that our car was still running. I had just finished nursing him and was covered when the man, who arrived at the same time as us and had already come back out of the building to his car, approached my window and motioned for us to turn the car off. I watched stunned, as Markus opened the window and they exchanged words in German. What I understood was that my husband refused in a firm but polite way and the man said “Ja, Klar”and got in his car shaking his head. Markus explained that he asked us to turn the car off, that he didn’t appreciate the car running outside his office and this a plague on the environment. Markus also said that the man was so sure of himself and abrasive in his approach it would not have surprised him if the guy tried to fight him.

I was angry. I was fuming. I was at a loss.

After our appointment and after the shock of the situation wore off, I had a number of things to say to Markus. I first told him that the man should be glad I wasn’t still nursing the baby because if he had approached us while I still had my boob out I would have gotten out of the car and dealt with him myself. After putting my boob away of course.

I understand the green movement, I understand that we need to be more careful with our environment and make smarter moves. I also saw this man drive up in a vehicle that was not any special environmental friendly car. It just takes some nerve to act in this way, in my opinion.

Another thing I was sure to make note of was that a situation like this in Texas would have taken a much more serious turn, in that you just don’t go around telling other people how to behave. I firmly believe that in the same situation a gun would’ve been pulled by someone just for approaching someone else’s car. Not to mention, I would have loved to see this same guy approach a ginormous diesel truck and see what kind of response he got from the person inside.

I once got in trouble with Markus at a soccer match because the man sitting in front of me chained smoked the entire match and when I finally had enough of the smoke in my face I asked him if he could not smoke anymore. This resulted in the man pulling out his phone and showing me the rules of the stadium that stated he could smoke where he wanted. I think Markus was embarrassed that I even said anything but I do think that guy smoked a little less the rest of the game. How can this country be so tolerant of something that can cause physical harm to another person but so intolerant of something that won’t actually hurt the environment considering we were sitting next to the highway?

We are in the process of purchasing a hybrid, and I fully intend to use the electric option to keep from having to turn the car off. This is my outlook for the future I guess, because the Texas girl in me struggles to sit in a vehicle with it off and no air circulating! I’m off to search Amazon for a battery operated fan to keep in the car! Wish me luck!

First Full Week of School and Life

Lainey finished her first full week of school today. Last week she only had two days because of a holiday.

The drive isn’t too bad! We are currently using a spare car from the in-laws and its a standard, which I have barely driven in my life. I was taught by a friend in Highschool but never had one as a car so its not a familiar thing for me. After three rounds with Markus sitting passenger and practically having a heart attack each time, I finally felt confident enough to make the drive by myself. It is 51 kilometers each way, so it’s not like a short drive. There are a number of hills in and out of the town where the school is located, and this has only caused me a little anxiety. After today’s drive with no stalls, I have only stalled three times and panicked twice and had to have Markus get me out of a spot. I will say, German drivers do not respect space, especially on hills and will pull all the way up to you even if you are trying to back out of a parking spot, which was my first freak out, since the car that pulled all the way up to me was a brand new Range Rover. I am sure they were pleased when Markus and I changed positions while they were waiting! I did enjoy driving again though and I am starting to get used to the rules of the autobahn.

The first two days Lainey was in school she seemed to be excited because so many of the kids also spoke English. By the end of her first full week those same kids have settled in to watch her learn German and aren’t going to want to translate what is going on for much longer so she is going to have to suck it up and learn the language. A few things that are different for Lainey, other than being in school for the first time since March 2020, are that they require kids to eat the lunch in the cafeteria and they have different classes each day and different teachers for some of the core subjects. Due to Covid, they have what is normally two second grade classes of around 20 kids, split into four classes to help with distancing. Our next move is to find a German tutor with the school that can work with her even more so that she can get a more firm grasp on the language and not fall even more behind in school. She does come home excited that she is the best in the class when its time for English class!

We are getting our container on Tuesday, this is a huge relief! It was randomly selected for detailed inspection when it came to customs, but it was cleared the day later, so that was also something that took some pressure off our minds!

All in all we are starting to settle in, but there is still a long road ahead.

Surprise Visits

On our second weekend in Germany, after a week of trying to adjust to our new time zone and surroundings, I figured we would have a quiet weekend just hanging out with family. We did do that, but with family who drove from six hours away to surprise me!!

After spending a couple hours at the home of some close friends here in Germany, we came home expecting an evening of quick dinner, baths and early to bed! Only we had a surprise! The cousin which we have chosen as Lukas’ godmother had driven the six hours from the Munich area with her husband to spend the weekend with us! She has lovingly called and video chatted with him as much as possible over the past year, but this was the first official visit for her with her Godchild and she just couldn’t bare to wait anymore! Even with all the current Coronavirus regulations in place and an outlook of only being able to hang out at the home of her Aunt and Uncle, they came all the way to meet our special boy!

Lukas was born and raised during the pandemic, at now 14 months old, only in the past two months have we left the house or ventured to other places, and we have done A LOT in that time! It started with selling the house, packing and moving, spending time with friends and getting to finally live a little, the past two months has been a whirlwind for sure. And then one month ago when we sold the house we did the road trip and in two weeks spent time in several states and six hotels! Immediately flying to Germany and now spending time with family he is finally starting to see what pre-pandemic life was like!

Our weekend was spent eating pizza from an Italian place, walking around the town where we are living, having Italian ice cream and doner kebap’s and finally a feast of Yugoslavian food. It’s amazing how many cuisines and options exist in our small village. It was nice to just spend time in the company of family. After a hard year, it was perfect!